Washington: Children and adolescents consume more calories and soda on days they eat at either fast-food or full-service restaurants, as compared to when they eat meals at, or from, home, according to a new study.
The researchers examined calorie intake, diet quality, and consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, particularly soda, on days when youngsters ate out as compared to days they did not.
They used data from the three waves of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey for the years between 2003 and 2008, which included 4,717 children ages 2 to 11 and 4,699 adolescents ages 12 to 19.
At restaurants, the researchers found, youths consumed higher amounts of sugar, total fat, saturated fat and sodium.
Take-out fared better in one regard -- the researchers found adolescents consumed twice as much soda when eating in the restaurant, as compared to when they ate the restaurant food at home.
"We attribute that to the free refills," says Lisa Powell, professor of health policy and administration in the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, and lead author of the study.
Children and adolescents also drank less milk on days when they ate at restaurants, she said.
The new study showed that on days when adolescents ate fast food, they consumed an additional 309 calories, suggesting they don``t reduce their non-restaurant food intake enough to compensate. Young children took in an additional 126 calories. Full-service dining caused increases of about 267 calories for teens and 160 calories for children.
The concern, Powell said, is that kids are consuming fast food too frequently, and not in moderation.
Limiting consumption from restaurants would help "improve diet outcomes among children and youth," she said.
Better nutritional standards are needed "to improve the range of healthy food options available, in order to turn around the obesity trend."
The study has been published online by Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.